Nigeria: Akintola Williams, Doyen of Accounting, @ 100

19 August 2019
editorial

One of Nigeria's best and the internationally renowned doyen of accounting in Africa, Akintola Williams, is a hundred years old.

We congratulate and celebrate the centenarian on this practically unachievable feat especially in a country like Nigeria where not many live to see a century. In a clime where life expectancy for men stands at 55 years, one of the lowest in the world, attaining such unusual pedestal is surely an enviable feat, which definitely comes with a collage of memories.

One hundred years for a man in a title-crazy clime who wants to be addressed simply as Mister is undeniably a journey of landmarks. At 100 years of age, Williams has undoubtedly distinguished himself in many areas as a man worthy of being celebrated.

Williams is not only one of the Methuselahs of our time, he has scored many firsts in his long and eventful life. He is the father of accounting in Nigeria, nay Africa, as the first chartered accountant in the continent. He is also a force to be reckoned with in business and even music.

Williams was born on August 9, 1919, into the family of Thomas Ekundayo Williams.

Akintola Williams is the elder brother of the late Chief Rotimi Williams, the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

He had his primary education at Olowogbowo Methodist Primary School, Lagos, in the 1930s. From there, he attended CMS Grammar School, Lagos for his secondary education.

Because of his exemplary academic brilliance, he won a UAC scholarship for his higher education at the Yaba Higher College where he obtained a diploma in commerce. He then proceeded to the University of London in 1944 to study Banking and Finance and graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1946.

Three years after, he qualified as a chartered accountant in England in 1949, making him the first African to achieve the feat. He was only 30.

Akintola Williams climbed the ladder of success with hard work and diligence. He returned to Nigeria in 1950 and worked at the Inland Revenue as an assessment officer until March 1952 when he resigned to start his accounting firm, Akintola Williams and Co., the first indigenous chartered accounting firm in Africa.

The firm grew to become a success with branches and partners in other African countries including Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Swaziland, and affiliates in Ghana, Egypt, and Kenya. Between April 1999 and May 2004, Akintola Williams & Co. merged with two other accounting firms to create Akintola Williams Deloitte (now known as Deloitte & Touche), the largest professional services firm in Nigeria with nearly a thousand employees.

As a youth, Williams was among the founders of Yoruba socio-political group, Egbe Omo Oduduwa, along with the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and other notable politicians in the Western Region such as Chief Ayo Rosiji, who later became the minister of health.

He retired in 1983 at the age of 64 but continued to serve humanity in different spheres including mentoring and encouraging the development and growth of other indigenous chartered accountancy firms.

Williams played a leading role in establishing the Association of Accountants in Nigeria in 1960. He is the first president of the association and also the pioneer president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).

He was also involved in the establishment of the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 1960 and till date he is an adviser to the operators.

Williams laid the foundation for many institutions in Nigeria. He made his mark as a member and a former chairman of the Federal Income Tax Appeal Commissioners (1958-68); member of the Coker Commission of Inquiry into the Statutory Corporations of the former Western Region of Nigeria (1962); member of the board of trustees of the Commonwealth Foundation (1966-1975); former chairman, Lagos State Government Revenue Collection Panel; founding chairman, African Cancer Centre (ACC); founding member, Nigeria Conservation Foundation (NCE); chairman, the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON), and founding chairman, International Lions Club District 404, among others.

Williams has garnered different awards and honours within and outside Nigeria as an appreciation for his hard work, development of accountancy and contributions to the economic growth of the country.

Among his honours and awards are the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) in 1982 and Commander of Federal Republic (CFR) in 2001. On May 8, 2011, the Nigeria-Britain Association presented awards to Williams, alongside John Kufuor, ex-President of Ghana, for their contributions to democracy and development.

In April 1997, Williams was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to the accountancy profession and for promotion of arts, culture, and music through the Music Society of Nigeria.

Williams was married to Efuntiloye Mabel Williams (nee Coker), who died in 2009 at the age of 88. The marriage was blessed with two children, Williams and Seni.

We join the numerous well-wishers across the globe to celebrate this legend who despite his enviable achievements remains humble. One hundred hearty cheers to an iconic centenarian, Mr. Akintola Williams!

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